A Sterling Professorship is the highest academic rank at Yale University, awarded to a tenured faculty member considered one of the best in his or her field. Traditionally, there are only 27 at any one time, though there are currently 40.
The professorships are named for and funded by an approximately $10 million endowment left by John William Sterling of the Yale Class of 1864, name partner in the New York law firm Shearman & Sterling.
The first Sterling Professor was the chemist John Johnson, who was awarded the rank in 1920.
Other past recipients include Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (Law), Wilbur Lucius Cross (English), Jaroslav Pelikan (history), Nobel Prize winner James Tobin (Economics), C. Vann Woodward (History) and Alvan Feinstein (Medicine and Epidemiology).
Among the most famous current Sterling Professors are legal scholar Bruce Ackerman, Nobel Prize-winning biochemists Sidney Altman and Thomas Steitz, literary critic Harold Bloom, economist William Nordhaus, Judge Guido Calabresi, political scientist James C. Scott, political scientist Ian Shapiro, historian of China Jonathan Spence, medieval scholars R. Howard Bloch, Giuseppe Mazzotta, and María Rosa